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Perspectives on FM in a global pandemic

Company News / PR

10/08/20 | Rebecca Drewett

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the world as we once knew it, impacting businesses of all sizes and sectors. This includes the FM industry, and in this series of articles, we ask our employees across the globe to share their experiences of the crisis, what it has meant for the industry in their area, and the role FM is playing to support people and businesses in these difficult circumstances.

In this edition, Aimee Bynon-Powell discusses the situation in Australia, and how FM is adapting in this challenging landscape.

Compared to some other countries, the Australian landscape has been relatively spared the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the benefit of seeing how the rest of the world tracked this before us, our lower population density, and being able to close international borders and interstate borders early, the spread was somewhat controlled. But, in February, the outlook looked very different – most companies closed offices and working from home became the norm.

Of course, everyone looked at Facility Managers in the early days to keep office spaces sanitised and ensure a safe working environment. As the virus spread globally, FMs were expected to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Every day there was a new Government directive directly impacting every FM’s responsibilities. The conversation quickly moved from ensuring a safe working environment, to having no joint working environment, something nobody ever contemplated on this scale. In a matter of two weeks, the conversation turned to mothballing office spaces or having low occupancy, meaning facilities had to be managed remotely and energy consumption minimised whilst still ensuring essential maintenance is carried out.

FM practitioners suddenly became visible; good FM practice was viewed as a strategic advantage to the business, and they were now involved in board discussions on how to navigate this impending and unavoidable crisis.

One area of concern is the Aged Care sector in Australia. Australia has an ageing population and a large proportion of this vulnerable group is housed in residential aged care facilities and villages. With almost half of Australia’s Covid-19 deaths within these facilities, we have done significant work with our Aged Care clients to ensure that our system aids in deferring non-essential maintenance and tracking self-isolation and potential positive test results among residents.

Fortunately, at this stage, the focus in Australia is on coming out of this crisis. This involves a completely new set of considerations to ensure a safe return to the workplace. Not too long from now staff will return and wonder how all of this worked?

Who looked after my building whilst I was working from home? Who made sure that when I returned it was safe and just like before?

It’s not only at board level that the role of the FM will come into its own and be visible to everyone. The next step is for FMs, with this new level of influence, to take strong leadership and demonstrate the value of their profession, and consequently become part of the top-tier management and decision-making structure of their organisations.

Due to the important role FM has played in managing how effectively Australia has handled this crisis, Aimee Bynon-Powell strongly believes this will be a launching pad for more recognition for these departments in the country moving forward.

Our team at FSI hope that this is the case as well due to the stellar efforts of these professionals, not just in these difficult circumstances, but year-round. Should they assume a greater position of influence in organisations moving forward, this could be pivotal in supporting the evolution and digitisation of the industry far beyond Covid-19.